It’s been a funny summer.

In February I went to LA and pulled out my back. I woke up. I yawned. I stretched. The two kind of overlapped. Then it was, uh oh, here we go.

Kathy had arranged to meet a friend at a burger place at Venice Beach, so we went early and I popped into a Chinese deep tissue massage stall I found on the Ocean Front walk. I’m not sure I’d recommend it (it’s the one near the muscle guys, not the more expensive upstairs place that requires an appointment). I pretty much cried my way through a 20 minute session. The guy actually placed the tip of his elbow between my vertebrae and pushed down on his fist like he was staking a tent. Maybe it was exactly what I needed. I’ve had no experience with these things. It helped for about 48 hours until we made it back to JFK and drove back to Providence. But by the end of the week I had chest pain. Then pains shooting down my right arm. Then my fingers went numb whenever I lay down. All quite melodramatic Kathy insisted that I go in and make sure I wasn't having a heart attack—which was secret relief, although I could barely hold still for the EKG.

The following few weeks felt like I was basically recreating my own little personal Venice Beach: muscle relaxants (didn’t work), acupuncture and deep laser (better), meditation and singing bowl tracks on my iTunes (not bad), a Chinese herbal that including Bai Shao, Ge Gen, Yan Hu Suo, Qiang Huo etc. (okay but a motherlode of pills), Advil Liquigels (heavenly for about 2 hours at a time), tape-on heat pads, my sister's electric heat pad all night, and a fast-talking orthopedic who was in such a hurry (to get to his golf game, I told myself) that his answer to one of my questions was “you’re not listening." I’m still a little pissed about it. Believe me, I was hanging on his every word. When I asked the medical secretary if I could switch physicians, she said, “If you think he’s fast, you should see Dr. X. I hadn't even used the word fast. I've heard it's kind of an orthopedic thing. Or surgeons in general. My brother, who's a general surgeon, likes to joke that he tries to spend no more than a couple minutes on diagnosis before he operates. I still think that's funny. Though not as funny as I did a few months ago.

I'm 50 this year. My dad always told me I should never get old.

Kathy had given me a very comfortable, leather older-man chair for my birthday. I slept in it for 6 weeks. And I gained a pound for every one of them. I don't really blame the chair. I obviously substituted snacking and TTSP (otherwise known as Netflix or Trying to Stay Positive) for BSC (Boston Sports Club). The new season of Louie came out in April so I watched that. (He even pulled out his back in the show, which made me feel gratifyingly understood.) The TTSP algorithm directed me to a silly show called Legitso I did two seasons of that. My daughter came home for spring break with several seasons of Modern Family on DVD so we had a marathon in front of the old fashioned TV. When everyone else went to bed I chased it with Woody Allen. Such is "sleeping" in a chair.

By the time I was back in my bed at night and got serious enough about BSC to need podcast suggestions, my friend Geoff, who’s actually done standup before, told me about Pete Holmes' You Made It Weird show in which he shoots the breeze with (mostly) comedians for 2 plus hours at a time. It turns out that it takes an absurd number of podcasts to take off 6 pounds of older-man-chair-induced belly fat. Mine included Judd Apatow, Dana Carvey, Richard Rohr, Peter Rollins, Bo Burnham, Jay Mohr, Rob Bell, Zack Galifinakis, Jason Mantzoukas, John Mulaney… plus, once my BSC got wifi and before they banned video streaming, I snuck in season 1 of The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (worth it if only for the opening auto-toned theme song), Frankie and Grace (fun, but not a way to feel youthful), Bloodlines (NOT funny and not trying to be, but worse for it), sense 8 (what?) a Joan Rivers special, and a Jim Norton special with him on the cover looking like a plucked antibiotic-free Purdue chicken. And if that isn’t TMI about my personal life, then you are probably watching too many comedies.

A lot of these are rated MA I think mostly for making mature men feel somehow pre-adolescent again. But despite hearing jokes about sex, guns, comedians, prudes, old men, babies, doughnuts, the afterlife, pills, mushrooms, divorce, hotels, bathtubs, waterparks, wheelchairs, race, interventions, sexting, therapists, bestiality, botox, fundamentalists, chauffeurs, man boobs, (comedians talk almost as fast as orthopedic doctors but cover a lot more ground) plus some very sad jokes about Bill Cosby, and lots and lots about fat and (as Jim Norton puts it) that area between "my pubis and weak chin," and even (sorry this is all in the dependent clause of a long sentence) a few that offended me (and this is also where this post is going to take a sharp turn toward the serious), I don't think a single thing I heard was as offensive as what I end up thinking about every day in my work. Namely, the fact that 16 million people are warehoused in refugee camps. And more than 60 million people—perhaps more than any other time in human history—are currently displaced. That's a big deal. It kind of baffles me why this isn't more disturbing when something as (literally) disturbing to our planet as WW2 is going on. I know a lot of people are concerned. But there are lots of others who just act pissed off about immigrants getting in their way. It makes no sense to me. Who of us is not an immigrant? To be human is to be an immigrant at some level.

It did interest me that, in all the comedy I watched and listened to, I don’t think I heard one single joke about a refugee. So there’s a challenge for you, Louis CK and other funny people: try to say something funny about refugees.

I've reached my space allotment. So I'll plan a part 2 on funniness in these dark days. I thought I'd try publishing this first on Linkedin and then I'll get it on our Beautiful Day blog, which in case you missed it, has a new two part interview with one of our refugee employees by one of our summer interns. Please check it out. In the meantime, I want you to know that we're running an Indiegogo campaign, and would deeply appreciate your support as we try to bring a new product into the market. Like all our products, the underlying purpose is to provide job training for refugees. You can learn all about it and and get involved on our campaign page.


Written by Keith Cooper

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